Simon Heffer

Speaker: Simon Heffer

Topic: The Age of Decadence: Britain 1880-1914

Venue: Vinson Lecture Theatre

Time: 10:00-11:00 Saturday 27 April

Talk Summary:

The folk-memory of Britain in the years before the Great War is of a powerful, contented, orderly and thriving country. She commanded a vast empire. The mood of pride and self-confidence is familiar from Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches, newsreels of George V’s coronation and London’s great Edwardian palaces. Yet things were very different below the surface. Simon Heffer exposes the contradictions of late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain. He depicts a ruling class that fell prey to degeneracy and scandal. And he concludes with the crisis that in the summer of 1914 threatened the existence of the United Kingdom – a looming civil war in Ireland. Through both accident and arrogance, Britain was then forced to face potentially fatal challenges.

Simon Heffer is one of the most distinguished historians of nineteenth- and twentieth-century British History. He is the author of biographies of Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and King Edward VII, as well as being the authorised biographer of Enoch Powell, for which Cambridge University awarded him a PhD in modern history. Subsequent historical works include A Short History of Power (2010), and a trilogy on the social and cultural history of Britain from the reign of Victoria to the end of the First Word War, the third volume of which — Staring at God: Britain 1914 to 1919 – will be published by Random House in September 2019. 

Born in 1960 and educated at King Edward VI School, Chelmsford, and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Simon Heffer has pursued a parallel career in journalism, serving as deputy editor of The Spectator and of The Daily Telegraph. He is currently editing the complete edition of the Diaries of Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon, to be published from 2020.

He has been a Professorial Research Fellow of the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute since 2017.